The Aberdeen IronBirds had a rough 2014 season, finishing at the bottom of the New York-Penn League's McNamara Division, but they put their final game of the season – in the words of Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Joe Angel – in the win column.
The IronBirds won their third straight, a 10-6 victory over the Hudson Valley Renegades, in front of a Labor Day hometown crowd of 3,696 at Ripken Stadium.
The 'Birds finished their regular season out of the playoffs with a 27-48 record.
The Renegades (46-30) already clinched the McNamara Division, and will play in Game 1 of the New York-Penn League semi-final playoffs Wednesday.
The lead for the final game went back and forth between Aberdeen and Hudson Valley, but some key late-inning hits, including a two-run homer by Baltimore Orioles transfer Steve Clevenger to tie the score at 6-6 in the bottom of the seventh, helped put the IronBirds over the top.
Clevenger, the Orioles' catcher, was at the top of the batting order as the designated hitter for the IronBirds.
He finished the game with four RBIs, two of which came in the bottom of the eighth inning when he hit a two-run double to give the IronBirds their 10-6 lead.
"You go into the ninth inning a lot more comfortable having a four-run lead, rather than a two-run lead," he said.
The Renegades picked up a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as they put two on, and then first baseman Casey Gillaspie brought center fielder Braxton Lee home from second with a single.
The IronBirds held the Renegades to 1-0 until the top of the fourth, when second baseman Steve Wilkerson tied the game with a double, and left fielder Randolph Gassaway hit a three-run homer to make it 4-1.
The Renegades came back in the fifth and sixth and went ahead, 6-4, as they steadily put men on base and took advantage of two key fielding errors, including one in which the Aberdeen pitcher, catcher and infielder tried to throw two players out at home plate, but kept missing each other.
Brian Gonzalez, a left hander, pitched four complete innings for Aberdeen, and the crowd applauded as he left the mound in the top of the fifth.
Relief pitcher Josh Walker, a right hander, picked up the win, giving him a 1-1 record for the season.
Hudson Valley's starter, right-hander Jose Alonzo, went four innings, and the loss went to reliever Edwin Fierro, also a right hander.
A Sunday win? Yes.
Late day thunderstorms wreaked havoc with Sunday's Aberdeen-Hudson Valley New York-Penn League game at Ripken Stadium.
After more than an two-hour delay to get the game started, another stoppage in play in the middle of the fifth halted the game for good. Aberdeen was ahead, 3-1, and despite a protest by Hudson Valley that a nine-inning game was needed, the game was declared official on Monday.
Hudson Valley (46-29), regular season champions of the league's McNamara Division, are in a heated battle for the top seed in the upcoming playoffs with State College and Tri-City, both of whom are 47-28.
Steve Clevenger, who the Baltimore Orioles transferred to Aberdeen earlier on Sunday, had two hits, a run scored and an RBI. Federico Castagnini added a hit and scored two runs and Randolph Gassaway also had a hit.
Orioles pitcher T.J. McFarland, who was also transferred on Sunday, threw an inning in relief. He walked one and struck out two.
Tarpley pitches gem
It was only Stephen Tarpley's third win out of eight decisions this season, but it was a gem for the Aberdeen IronBirds, who beat the Spinners, 3-0, in Lowell, Mass. Saturday behind Tarpley's eight shutout innings. The win puts Aberdeen's disappointing season record at 25-48 on the season. More importantly, it sends the IronBirds home to Ripken Stadium for Sunday's and Monday's last two games.
Tarpley allowed six hits and two walks while striking out eight. Mike Burke had an uneventful ninth, facing just three batters, while saving his first game.
With two on and two out in the top of the sixth, Riley Palmer delivered for the IronBirds. He hit his fifth homer of the season for all of the scoring.
The first two of the three-game series in Lowell were blowouts by the Spinners. Saturday's Aberdeen win cleansed the bad taste of those blowouts Thursday and Friday with the late Earl Weaver's well-known formula for success in baseball: good pitching and three-run homers.
Friday night, Palmer had a double and Stephen Wilkerson had a double. And that's about all there is say about another tough night in a long, tough season for the Aberdeen IronBirds. Palmer and Wilkerson had the only hits, but neither they nor any of their teammates had any runs as the IronBirds took another pounding, 9-0, from the Spinners in Lowell, Mass.
Aberdeen has three games left in the miserable 2014 season; one more in Lowell before returning to Ripken Stadium for Sunday and Monday. Aberdeen is 24-48 on the year.
The 9-0 score Friday combined with a 13-1 loss Thursday night, left the IronBirds reeling from the Spinners by a combined 22-1 score the past two nights.
What a Thursday night in Lowell, Mass.
The Aberdeen IronBirds, starting their final road series of the 2014 season, were beaten soundly by the Lowell Spinners, 13-1, in a game that saw the Lowell manager Joe Oliver, pitcher Enfember Martinez and catcher David Sopilka, all ejected before the first pitch was thrown in the top of the first inning.
The ejections came as a result of what umpire Ryan Wilhelms believed was a National Anthem standoff. Wilhelms reportedly ejected a Brooklyn player earlier this week for such behavior. Wilhelms was quoted in an MLB.com article saying, "He was ejected for delay of game in accordance with a memo from Minor League Baseball sent out about national anthem standoffs."
Manager Oliver took issue with Thursday's ejections and he was ejected too. Unhappy, Oliver tossed a number of bats and a bag of baseballs onto the field, according to IronBirds radio announcer Paul Taylor.
Unfortunately, that was the only thing that seemed to go wrong for the Spinners, who pelted four Aberdeen pitchers for 17 hits and 13 runs. Lowell scored five runs in the first inning and added three more in each of the third and sixth innings. They also scored single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.
Aberdeen (24-47) was held scoreless on five hits into the ninth. Austin Anderson singled for hit number six and scored the IrionBirds lone run on an passed ball.
Lucas Long was the losing pitcher, lasting two and a third innings. He allowed nine hits and eight runs, all earned. He walked one and struck out three.